Rotator cuff - self-care
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach to the bones of the shoulder joint, allowing the shoulder to move and remain stable. The tendons can be torn from overuse or injury.
Pain relief measures, using the shoulder properly, and shoulder exercises may help ease your symptoms.
Rotator Cuff Problems
Common rotator cuff problems include:
Relieving the Pain
Medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may help reduce swelling and pain. If you take these medicines every day, tell your doctor so that your general health can be monitored.
Moist heat, such as a hot bath, shower, or a heat pack, can help when you feel pain in your shoulder. An ice pack applied to the shoulder 20 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times a day, may also help when you are in pain. Wrap the ice pack in a clean towel or cloth. DO NOT place it directly on the shoulder. Doing so may cause frostbite.
Using Your Shoulder
Learn how to care for your shoulder to avoid placing extra stress on it. This can help you heal from an injury and avoid re-injury.
Your positions and posture during the day and night can also help relieve some of your shoulder pain:
Other tips for taking care of your shoulder include:
Physical Therapy and Exercises
Your doctor will likely refer you to a physical therapist to learn exercises for your shoulder.
Returning to Sports
It is best to avoid playing sports until you have no pain during rest or activity. Also, when examined by your doctor or physical therapist, you should have:
Returning to sports and other activity should be gradual. Ask your physical therapist about the proper technique you should use when doing your sports or other activities that involve a lot of shoulder movement.
Finnoff JT. Upper limb pain and dysfunction. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016: chap 35.
Rudolph GH, Moen T, Garofalo R, Krishnan SG. Rotator cuff and impingement lesions. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 52.
Whittle S, Buchbinder R. In the clinic. Rotator cuff disease. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(1):ITC1-ITC15. PMID: 25560729 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25560729.
Review Date: 4/21/2019
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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